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With electric vehicles and hybrids gaining in popularity, Nissan asked itself: can the battery performance of electric vehicles be improved by observing electrons? Nissan sought an answer to this question through an advanced research project in partnership with universities in Japan. The result: Nissan Motor Company and its affiliate Nissan Arc Ltd. announced March 13 the development of the world’s first analysis method that enables direct observation of electron activity in the cathode material of lithium ion batteries during charging and discharging. Nissan declared applying this analysis technique to future research and design of battery materials could enable Nissan researchers to develop high-capacity and high- durability batteries that may extend the driving distance of zero emission EVs and improve their durability.   Nissan Arc Ltd. is a 100-percent subsidiary of Nissan Motor Company, developed the analysis method in a joint R&D effort with Tokyo University, Kyoto University and Osaka Prefecture University. Nissan said the newly developed technique provides an accurate depiction of how electrons are emitted from certain elements that constitute the cathode material of lithium ion batteries when charging and discharging. “Creating this analysis technique was a major step toward the further development of high-capacity, next-generation lithium ion batteries,” said Takao Asami, Nissan senior vice president and president of Nissan Arc Ltd. “It will play an important part in our future R&D aimed at extending the driving range of future zero emission vehicles.”In order to develop high capacity, long-life lithium ion batteries, explained Nissan, the maximum possible amount of lithium must be stored in the electrode’s active material, which allows it to generate the highest possible number of electrons. To develop such a material, an accurate reading of the electron activity inside the battery is essential. Existing analysis methods did not allow researchers to observe the movement of electrons. It was not possible to determine how the various electrodes’ active material — i.e. manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), oxygen (O) — was emitting electrons and how many electrons were actually being emitted. Per Nissan, the newly developed analysis method combines x-ray absorption spectroscopy that utilizes L-absorption edges and the first principle calculation from Japan’s Earth Simulator supercomputer. X-ray absorption spectroscopy had been used in the past to analyze batteries, continued Nissan. However, the majority of this analysis was done using K-absorption edges that can only observe restrained electrons in the atom (electrons that are not involved in the charging and discharging due to the vicinity to the nucleus) and not the actual electrons involved in cell reaction. By applying x-ray absorption spectroscopy that utilizes L-absorption edges, electrons that were directly involved with the cell reaction can be observed. Accurate analysis of the amount of electron mobility is made possible by combining the observation results with first principle calculations from the Earth Simulator supercomputer. For years scientists have wanted to understand the origin of electrons during charging and discharging, and this newly-developed analysis method finally makes it possible, stated the Japanese company. Scientists can observe the exact phenomenon inside a battery cell, especially the behavior of active materials of electrodes, permitting further study of better-performing, longer-lasting electrode materials. Nissan Arc said it has used the new analysis technique to investigate lithium-rich high-capacity electrode materials, which are considered promising agents to increase energy density by 150 percent. The analysis revealed that at a high potential state, electrons originating from oxygen were active during charging. Meanwhile, electrons that originated from manganese were observed to be active during the discharge reaction. These findings were a big step forward toward the commercial development of lithium-rich electrode materials, which can produce higher-capacity, long-lasting batteries.


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Huntington Bank’s Second Annual Midwest Economic Index reveals that 22% of consumers in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Indiana and Western Pennsylvania are considering buying or leasing a vehicle in 2014. That’s enough for a one percentage point increase over last year, as analysts predict 2014 will be one of the best years in auto sales since before the recession.

“We’re projecting an increase in auto sales in 2014 as consumers’ needs align with a buyer’s market,” said Rich Porrello, director of Huntington’s Auto Finance division. “And we’re witnessing tremendous consumer enthusiasm at sponsored auto shows across the Midwest in response to the increasing sophistication among manufacturers that are pushing to define a whole new generation of cars and trucks on the road today.”

Of respondents considering a vehicle, 55% report they will buy or lease a new car — up from 52% last year. Thirty percent of respondents — down from 32% last year — will choose a used car.

New auto sales, after hitting a low of 10.4 million units in 2009, have rebounded to four consecutive years of increases, and the expected increase in 2014 would be the first time since the 1930s the industry would have five years of consecutive growth. With the average age of all light vehicles on the road sits at a record-high of 11.3 years, according to Polk (recently purchased by IHS), consumers’ needs are growing. This data, combined with consumer optimism about the U.S. economy, forecasts another strong year for the automotive industry.

With the continued expansion of its indirect lending business, including entry into Connecticut and Iowa in 2013, Huntington’s auto loan volume totaled $4.2 billion last year, as the bank financed more cars than during any other time in its history. A record 205,000 vehicles were financed, enough to stretch end to end from the bank’s Columbus, Ohio, headquarters to Macon, Georgia.